DSS: Commander Uncensored — EDH without the ban list

Welcome to the second edition of Deck Salad Surgery!  I had the idea for this particular column while driving over to a friend’s place to sling some cardboard.  The basic premise is this:  what kind of deck would you make if there weren’t any banned cards (except the ante cards, of course)?

There’s obviously a few ways to go with it, but I chose to go top-down.  What cards would I most like to play if they weren’t banned?  Then, how do I abuse those cards?  (Of course, many of the cards on this list don’t require much work to abuse.)  Two sprang to mind immediately, but I won’t give away which ones just yet.  Instead, let’s look at the banned list and break it down by colour.

Here’s an interesting note I found while scouring the banned list on mtgcommander.net.  It says, “these cards (and others like them) should not be played without prior agreement of the other players in the game” (emphasis mine).  And others like them?!  WTF does that mean?  I’ve never noticed that before.  I assume it was left in from an earlier time.  Anyway:

Black (5)
Griselbrand
Kokusho, the Evening Star
Recurring Nightmare
Yawgmoth’s Bargain
Mox Jet

Some good stuff there.

Blue (8)
Ancestral Recall
Gifts Ungiven
Sway of the Stars
Time Walk
Tinker
Upheaval
Tolarian Academy
Mox Sapphire

Now we’re talking.  While the Academy isn’t a blue card, it might as well be.  All of these are great except for Sway of the Stars which makes the banned list solely for being exceptionally annoying.

Green (5)
Biorhythm
Channel
Fastbond
Protean Hulk
Mox Emerald

Yawn.  If we’re using the worst (worst as in best, obv) cards in the format, surely we can do better than this.

White (4)
Balance
Limited Resources
Karakas
Mox Pearl

Not a lot to work with but it’s very good stuff.

Artifacts / Colorless (9)
Black Lotus
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Library of Alexandria
Metalworker
Painter’s Servant
Panoptic Mirror
Staff of Domination
Sundering Titan
Time Vault

Yum.  Here’s the real meat.  Of course, because colorless cards can be used in any deck, they get extra scrutiny.

To no-one’s surprise, there isn’t a single red card on the list, and blue has the best representation.  From the looks of things, blue and white have the “best” cards, with black and green coming up behind.  So I can either play Bant or Esper.  I pick Esper.  Here’s why.

The cards I immediately thought of playing were Balance and Tolarian Academy.  Put those together and I immediately think: “artifact deck!”  The fact that there are a lot of sick artifacts on the list and voila.  Let’s make a Sharuum the Hegemon deck!

The basic idea of this deck is going to be: use as much artifact mana as possible, Balance away the opponent’s land or prevent them from playing any with Limited Resources or Land Equilibrium, then trot out some ridiculous combo and win.  Fun for the whole family!  Here’s some “packages” we can play.  (This deck practically builds itself.)

Fun fun fun fun fun fun fun

Combo Package 1 (2)
Time Vault
Tezzeret the Seeker

Combo Package 2 (3)
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Painter’s Servant
Grindstone

Combo Package 3 (2)
Panoptic Mirror
Time Walk

Combo Package 4 (3)
Sharuum the Hegemon
Sculpting Steel
Disciple of the Vault

Combo Package 5 (3)
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Griselbrand
Show and Tell

Mana Package 1 (6)
Tolarian Academy
Mycosynth Lattice
Voltaic Key
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Deserted Temple
Clock of Omens

Lockdown Suite (6)
Balance
Armageddon
Limited Resources
Land Equilibrium
Nether Void
Winter Orb

Draw-Your-Deck (3)
Cloud Key
Sensei’s Divining Top
Etherium Sculptor

With those punishing win conditions, we merely need some grease for the axles.  That is, cards to keep us alive and get us to the point where we play this and win.  That means, acceleration, removal, card draw, tutors, recursion, and miscellaneous utility.

Acceleration will form a big part of this deck.  Three lockdown conditions — Balance, Land Equilibrium, and Limited Resources are going to hurt us too unless we have an ungodly amount of artifact mana.  Thankfully, in a three color deck, we can make this happen:

Acceleration

Zero-Cost Spells (11)
Black Lotus
Mox Jet
Mox Pearl
Mox Sapphire
Chrome Mox
Mox Diamond
Mox Opal
Lion’s-Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
Lotus Bloom
Mana Crypt

One-Cost Spells (1)
Sol Ring

Two-Cost Spells (9)
Grim Monolith
Azorius Signet
Orzhov Signet
Dimir Signet
Talisman of Progress
Talisman of Dominance
Lotus Blossom
Copy Artifact
Metalworker

Three-Cost Spells (3)
Coalition Relic
Phyrexian Metamorph
Worn Powerstone

Four-Cost Spells (2)
Thran Dynamo
Krark-Clan Ironworks

Five-Cost Spells (1)
Gilded Lotus

Grease

Tutors (10)
Demonic Tutor
Vampiric Tutor
Imperial Seal
Grim Tutor
Mystical Tutor
Gifts Ungiven
Intuition
Tezzeret the Seeker
Fabricate
Enlightened Tutor

Card Draw etc. (9)
Ancestral Recall
Ancestral Vision
Thirst for Knowledge
Frantic Search
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Yawgmoth’s Bargain
Griselbrand
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Library of Alexandria

Recursion (6)
Timetwister
Time Spiral
Snapcaster Mage
Academy Ruins
Mistveil Plains
Petrified Field

Removal / Disruption (7)
Upheaval
Terminus
Sway of the Stars
Pact of Negation
Force of Will
Mana Drain
Bojuka Bog

Yep, I’m even playing Sway of the Stars.  I like my chances in a “new game” since I should be way faster than everybody else.  I can probably play out most of my hand after an Upheaval, too.  (Look how many zero-cost artifacts I have!)  For the wrath effect I chose Terminus as I have Mystical Tutor, Vampiric Tutor and Imperial Seal to conjure-up the Miracle cost, and I chose only one since I don’t think needing to clear the board of creatures is going to come up very often.

There might not be enough blue cards to warrant Force of Will.  It’ll have to be played by ear.  Pact makes it because we’re a combo deck, and Mana Drain makes it because it’s stupid.

Let’s put this all together and see if any more ideas come to mind.

Banned in 52 States and Continental Europe

Commander (1)
Sharuum the Hegemon

Artifacts (34)
Azorius Signet
Black Lotus
Coalition Relic
Clock of Omens
Cloud Key
Chrome Mox
Dimir Signet
Gilded Lotus
Grim Monolith
Grindstone
Krark-Clan Ironworks
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lotus Bloom
Lotus Blossom
Lotus Petal
Mana Crypt
Mox Diamond
Mox Jet
Mox Opal
Mox Pearl
Mox Sapphire
Mycosynth Lattice
Orzhov Signet
Panoptic Mirror
Sculpting Steel
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sol Ring
Talisman of Dominance
Talisman of Progress
Thran Dynamo
Time Vault
Voltaic Key
Winter Orb
Worn Powerstone

Creatures (9)
Disciple of the Vault
Etherium Sculptor
Griselbrand
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
Metalworker
Painter’s Servant
Phyrexian Metamorph
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (25)
Ancestral Recall
Ancestral Vision
Armageddon
Balance
Demonic Tutor
Enlightened Tutor
Fabricate
Force of Will
Frantic Search
Gifts Ungiven
Grim Tutor
Imperial Seal
Intuition
Mana Drain
Mystical Tutor
Pact of Negation
Show and Tell
Terminus
Thirst for Knowledge
Timetwister
Time Spiral
Time Walk
Upheaval
Vampiric Tutor
Sway of the Stars

Planeswalkers (2)
Tezzeret the Seeker
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Enchantments (4)
Copy Artifact
Land Equilibrium
Limited Resources
Nether Void

Utility Land (11)
Academy Ruins
Ancient Tomb
Bojuka Bog
City of Traitors
Deserted Temple
Karakas
Library of Alexandria
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
Mistveil Plains
Petrified Field
Tolarian Academy

Mana Land (15)
Ancient Den
Darkslick Shores
Drowned Catacomb
Fetid Heath
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Mishra’s Workshop
Mystic Gate
Scrubland
Seachrome Coast
Seat of the Synod
Tundra
Underground Sea
Vault of Whispers
Watery Grave

Voila!  And it only costs about $5000!  Let’s shuffle this bad boy up and try it against some of my decks.

Round 1: vs. Wort, Boggart Auntie

Sharuum keeps a hand with a couple of artifact lands, a Mox, Underground Sea, Vampiric Tutor, and Snapcaster Mage.  It looks playable.  First thing I do is Vamp Tutor for Metalworker, which proves to be a mistake.  Wort starts quickly with a Warren Instigator on turn two.  It connects and drops a Goblin Recruiter and a Siege-Gang Commander.  Sharuum panics on the next turn, uses Snapcaster to flashback Vamp Tutor and grabs Balance, casting it.  With Snappy and Metalworker out it doesn’t do much and Sharuum actually has to dump a card.  Wort plays out a few more dudes and takes game 1 after Sharuum runs out of gas.

Game two starts pretty well for Sharuum.  It drops a Black Lotus, a land, and Timetwisters.  Wort reveals a very good hand and dumps it.  (I just realized how hilarious Timetwister on turn 1 is in Commander.  How’s your hand?  Hope you draw into something playable …)  Sharuum draws into Mox Sapphire, Mox Opal, Ancestral Vision, and Lotus Bloom.  It suspends two cards, plays two free artifacts, and passes the turn.  Wort drops a Mountain and passes.  Sharuum plays out some more artifacts and is looking great.  Wort drops another land and attempts to resolve Null Rod, which looks fantastic at this point.  Sharuum Frantic Searches into a Pact of Negation and burns it.  Sharuum goes on to take the game after the Lotus Bloom produces Griselbrand and Wort scoops.

Game three starts with a land and Skullclamp for Wort.  Sharuum drops two Mox, Lotus Bloom, Voltaic Key, and a land.  Wort’s second turn produces nothing but land 2.  Sharuum EOT Vampiric Tutors for Balance.  Turn 2 Balance drops Wort down to 2 cards and one land.  Next two turns feature nothing but land drops and a Talisman of Dominance.  Once Lotus Bloom resolves, Sharuum plays Snapcaster Mage, flashing back Vampiric Tutor to go get Tezzeret the Seeker.  Tezzeret burns two loyalty counters to fetch Time Vault.  A valiant effort from Wort to Boggart Harbinger into Warren Wierding to kill off Tezzeret is unsuccessful and the infinite turns begin.

Sharuum: 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Glissa, the Traitor

Game one sees Sharuum on the play, keeping Nether Void, Underground Sea, Scrubland, Dimir Signet, Time Vault, and Ancient Tomb.  Pretty ‘tarded.  Glissa keeps three land, Grim Monolith, Eternal Witness, Oracle of Mul Daya, and Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger.  Sharuum drops ‘Tomb and the Signet and passes.  Glissa starts with Overgrown Tomb, tapped.

Sharuum draws Mox Diamond and plays it, discarding Scrubland.  Tomb taps for Time Vault and a Time Walk is cast off the Sea and Diamond.  On the free turn, Sharuum picks up Land Equilibrium.  The choice is now between Nether Void and Equilibrium, or do nothing and pass.  Void ensures Glissa does nothing forever but slows us down until we can find Tezzeret or Voltaic KeyLand Equilibrium at least ensures Glissa doesn’t go anywhere, so we play that and pass (Sharuum at 34 life).

Glissa draws a land, plays Grim Monolith, and passes.  Sharuum draws Sculpting Steel and plays it, copying Grim Monolith, and passes.  Glissa draws Vernal Bloom and plays it off a Forest and Grim Monolith.  Glissa plays a second forest, sacrificing the tapped forest to Land Equilibrium, and plays Oracle of Mul Daya, revealing Ancient Tomb on the top, and passes.

Sharuum draws Mishra’s Workshop, and plays it out along with Sharuum and Nether Void.  Glissa scoops.  Sharuum 1-0.

Glissa keeps a dodgy hand of two swamps, Mana Reflection, Primal Command, Phyrexian Arena, Akroma’s Memorial, and Phyrexian Arena.  Sharuum keeps Hallowed Fountain, Deserted Temple, Mana Crypt, Thran Dynamo, Armageddon, Fabricate, and Tezzeret the Seeker.  This might be quick if Sharuum can find UU.  Glissa lays a swamp and passes.  Sharuum draws Metalworker, drops Fountain untapped and Crypt, and Fabricates for Time Vault.

Glissa draws Demonic Tutor (which it’s going to need) and lays Swamp and Signet.  Sharuum takes 3 from Crypt, draws Bojuka Bog, lays Temple, plays Thran Dynamo then Metalworker off the Dynamo.  Drawing a blue source is game over at this point.  Glissa draws and plays Phryrexian Tower, Demonic Tutors for Krosan Grip, and passes.

Sharuum draws Etherium Sculptor and might be able to win.   Tapping Crypt, Metalworker for 4, Dynamo, and the land, Sharuum adds 9U, using one to untap Fountain for 8UU.  Vault comes in for two, Tezzeret comes in for 3UU and it’s game over (provided Sharuum finds a win condition before Crypt kills her, but Glissa doesn’t wait around to find out.)

10 mana on turn 3 on a sub-optimal land draw.  Nasty.

Round 3: vs. Captain Sisay

Sisay is on the play and keeps Hall of the Bandit Lord, Forest, Plains, Strip Mine, Krosan Verge, Lightning Greaves, and Shield of the Oversoul.  This could be a competitive hand.  She lays Verge and passes.  Sharuum keeps Watery Grave, Godless Shrine, Sol Ring, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Frantic Search, Mana Drain and Intuition.  Also very good.  Turn one draws Mystic GateWatery Grave goes down followed by Sol Ring and Diamond.

Turn two, Sisay lays Forest and Greaves, drawing Mirri’s Guile.  Sharuum draws Timetwister.  Dropping Mystic Gate and putting Timetwister on the stack, Sharuum pops the LED adding UUU.  The draw off ‘twister is terrible (3 land, Winter Orb, Lotus Bloom, Disciple of the Vault and Enlightened Tutor) and the best Sharuum can do is suspend Lotus Bloom, play Winter Orb and Enlightened Tutor for a Mox Opal.  Sisay, very slowed down, lays Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers and passes.  Sharuum draws and plays Grim Monolith, Tundra, and Sharuum.  Sitting on Beast Within, Sisay drops another land and passes.

Sharuum draws and plays Karakas and swings for 6.  At EOT, Sisay uses Beast Within on the Winter Orb.  Unfortunately, with the Karakas on the table, Sisay is pretty hamstrung and can only pop the Verge, fetching Temple Garden and Savannah.  At EOT, Sharuum untaps the Grim Monolith.

Sharuum topdecks Sculpting Steel with Disciple of the Vault in hand and wins.  Piece o’ cake.  Sharuum 1-0.

Sisay keeps Crovax, Ascendant Hero, Gaddock Teeg, Myojin of Life’s Web, Sol Ring, Hall of the Bandit Lord, Sunpetal Grove, and Wasteland.  It lays a tapped Grove and passes.  Sharuum keeps Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, Phyrexian Metamorph, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Copy Artifact, Time Vault, Karakas, and Hallowed Fountain.  Drawing Mox Sapphire, it lays LED, Mox, Fountain tapped, and passes.

Sisay draws Ghostly Prison (great).  Drops Sol Ring, Hall tapped, and passes.  Sharuum draws Upheaval, drops Minamo, and passes.  Sisay draws Realms Uncharted and plays it, grabbing Savannah, Strip Mine, Mistveil Plains, and Ancient Tomb.  Sharuum gives her the Savannah and Mistveil Plains.  Sisay drops the Mistveil Plains and passes.

Drawing Talisman of Progress, Sharuum finally tips her hand and lays Karakas followed by the Talisman.  This game is definitely the slowest for this deck thus far.

Sisay untaps, drops the Wasteland and turns Karakas into a … er, yeah.  Following, she lays Sisay with haste and fetches up a Kataki, War’s Wage (with sadly not enough mana to drop it).

Sharuum draws Land Equilibrium and plays it, passing the turn.  Sisay draws Spelltithe Enforcer, plays Kataki off the Bandit Hall and Mistveil Plains, then drops a Savannah (sacrificing the Hall) and playing Teeg.  Sisay grabbing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben would just about put the nail in the coffin, but I haven’t put her in this deck yet.  Kataki swings for 2 and Sisay passes.

Sharuum lets the LED go, tapping the Mox and Talisman to pay for themselves.  Hoping on a good draw step, Painter’s Servant comes up.  Not gonna cut it.  EOT, Sisay fetching Saffi Eriksdotter forces a scoop.  Not many cards in Sharuum are going to get out of this one — two mana and a hand full of useless dreck.  Kataki and a well-timed Wasteland FTW.  1-1.

Sharuum keeps Vault of Whispers, Seat of the Synod, Tolarian Academy, Etherium Scuptor, Balance, Upheaval, and Karakas.  4/7 cards are banned.  Hilarious.  Sharuum lays Vault and passes.

Sisay keeps Eiganjo Castle, Kor Haven, Thorn of Amethyst, Kodama’s Reach, Coalition Relic, Mirari’s Wake, and Tooth and Nail, drawing Kataki.  It drops Eiganjo and says go.

T2, Sharuum draws Watery Grave and puts it into play tapped, passing.  Sisay draws Smokestack, drops Kor Haven and plays Kataki, passing.

T3, Sharuum pays for Vault with itself, draws Mana Drain, lays Academy and passes.  Sisay draws Mangara of Corondor, misses a land drop, swings for 2 and passes.

T4, Sharuum draws Darkslick Shores, drops Karakas, bounces Kataki and passes.  Sisay draws Rout, missing a second land drop, and casts Kataki, which eats a Mana Drain.  This one’s over.  Sisay discards TnN and passes.

T5, Sharuum draws Tezzeret 1.0, drops Seat of the Synod and adds 2.  Leaving Karakas up, Sharuum drops Tezz and searches up Time Vault.  It’s not a cautious play but Sisay is losing the game hard anyway.  If they luck out and have or draw a disenchant they’ll still probably lose.  As it is, she draws a Glowrider and scoops.

Summary

So far the deck is pretty good but a little inconsistent, mostly due (I think) to bad hands I’m keeping.  Unsurprisingly, the deck does best when it has a lot of 0-mana spells in the opener.  I’ve seen almost no tutors and I feel like this deck can play in a lot of ways I haven’t seen yet.  Tezz / Time Vault is sure disgusting and very easy to do.  The Stax win against Glissa was pretty sweet.

All in all, I don’t expect this deck to lose much.  I intend to beg my playgroup to let me try it in a multiplayer setting and I’ll report back.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Cardz of the Week: Sweepers! | Nerd Alert

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